MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – With caskets and cadaver bags running out, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) suggested Monday that a mass grave be made for the casualties of tropical storm “Sendong” in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan.
To prevent the spread of disease among residents, NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos suggested it would be better if the remains of the victims be buried in a mass grave.
While he still respects the decision of families who would like to give traditional burial to their deceased relatives, Ramos said there are not enough funeral parlors in the area to accommodate all the rotting corpses.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona also said the government is also considering the possibility of creating mass graves if there is a rise in diseases in affected areas.
Ona said another option is to place some of the corpses inside freezers.
On the other hand, Iligan Mayor Lawrence Cruz said a mass burial will be conducted for about 50 bodies with no claimants. He told dzMM these remains are already in their advanced state of decomposition.
ABS-CBN News reporter Jeff Canoy said residents in Iligan have begun wearing face masks because of the stench brought about by the rotting bodies. There is also a shortage of formalin (formaldehyde embalming fluid) and qualified embalmers in the area.
As of 6 a.m. Monday, the NDRRMC said death toll from the typhoon has risen to 533, with 309 still missing.
A separate report from the Philippine National Red Cross said the death toll from the typhoon is already at 652.
Despite the disparity in the figures, both the government and the private organization expect the number of fatalities to rise as search and retrieval operations continue.
Most of the fatalities were residents living beside the main river systems in the areas. These rivers swelled at the height of Sendong’s onslaught, which brought 181 millimeters worth of rain in a 24-hour period.
In Cagayan de Oro City, there are 30,403 individuals are now staying in 19 evacuation centers, while in Iligan, there are 9,640 individuals in 15 centers.
Weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) continued to warn residents of possible landslides even after the tropical storm had left the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR).
PAGASA weather forecaster Sonny Pajarilla said Sendong is already 600 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
He added areas in Mindanao may still experience brief thunderstorms due to “atmospheric moisture”.
Ramos said illegal logging in areas surrounding Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan could be blamed for the heavy siltation of the river systems and massive flooding.
He added local governments must do something to stop residents from building shelters in the river bank areas and create a relocation plan to prevent massive loss of lives in the future.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and non-government organizations (NGOs) have released P1.23 million and P552,333 worth of relief assistance, respectively.
Aside from NGOs, Ramos said 16 international humanitarian organizations have arrived in the areas hardest hit by the storm to give assistance to the flood victims.
Water treatment facilities have also been set up in areas suffering from water shortage. – with dzMM, ANC